Collin McCullough, Excerpt from “On Point”

Of the forty-four cabins that Camp Powell boasted only one cabin would go to sleep inhabited that night. Earlier the paddlers had come across a cash of candles and matches in a neglected armoire, a find that would allow them nightly productivity until the end of their journey. Together they strode through the dark, two floating faces entering and exiting the collection of cabins as they struggled to keep the wick burning in the wind; the light provided a guide for where they needed to go. Once inside they shone the light around the walls, physically lifting the candlelight overhead so they could read the names and study the tacked up photographs, the faded images of legends left behind to their eras.

The paths were leaf covered. Underneath, the earth had been compressed into roads. They followed the winding system through the forest, keeping their ears open for shifts in the dark.

They entered the dining hall, the light from their candle not able to reach the ceiling. The tables extended before them in long rows. Down the lines of tables to the hall’s rear a massive insignia was carved. The insignia was shaped like a badge with the words “CAMP POWELL” bold and flickering at the head. Below the camp’s title a solid line sectioned the insignia into two. On the left a tee pee was set in front of a sun. On the right two rifles crossed. Below the badge the camp’s motto extended from wall to wall, “For my fellow and for my honor I pledge myself to thee.” The carving loomed over the stone floor and the paddlers craned their necks to indulge their eyes on the emblem they found difficult to avoid. How many eyes were drawn to the engraved wall over the years and over bowls of cereal they could not know. “I pledge myself to thee,” the bowman mouthed. The emptiness of a room fit to dine so many crept up their lingering spines; a sense that a place capable of feasting hundreds should not have life breathed back into it by two.

They walked through sports fields teeming with fireflies. In the open spaces the wind made it nearly impossible to keep the candle burning so they allowed it to extinguish; the stars provided enough light for where they needed to go. They tried to open the infirmary, but it was locked. Any bows they came upon at the archery range needed to be restrung and the arrows were left broken. They explored the boathouses in search of keys, but found none. They scrambled up from the lake, plunging holes into the deep moss, grabbing at thickets of blueberry bushes to lift themselves onto a rocky point. There, covered in vines, was an old chapel.

The heavy oak doors took some convincing, but eventually gave the paddlers pass. The vines had engulfed the outside, blocking most of any light from entering through the stained glass. Much of the chapel was in disrepair; some pews were rotted, hymnal books were mold covered, and much of the metal had come to rust. They struck what keys were left on the antique piano so that music could bring warmth; instead, awful noises erupted from inside. They poked around. They sifted through the different recesses for supplies. A dust-covered bottle of wine became the find of the night and they sat on a random pew in their cups. The sternman rolled a cigarette. The smoke rose to the ceiling above their silence. The chapel had lost its standing long before it was lit.

At the waterfront the wind grew the loudest, the air the coldest. The dock extended over the lake so that they were given the impression of being on the water and they walked out to meet the illusion. The moment provided a luxury. They were often asleep by this time, conserving whatever warmth was available to them. But tonight they stayed in the wind without speaking, taken by the impulse to simply stand there and wrap themselves in it. The deafening hollow silence of air whistled at their pants and chapped their faces until one, turning to the other, cupped his hands about his mouth and shouted, “The wind reclaims this place!”

 

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